Elmwood Nursing and Rehab Center named in suit

Kelly Holleran Aug. 20, 2010, 3:57am


An Illinois man claims his father died after staff at a Maryville nursing home failed to appropriately address his shortness of breath.

Michael Huntsman filed a lawsuit Aug. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court against Elmwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and its owners -- Makhlouf Suissa, Lorraine Suissa, Maryville Health Properties, Healthcare Management Associates, Mark Suissa, Eric Rothner and Noah Wolff -- and machine maker Fox Med-Equip Services.

Michael Huntsman claims his father, Elmer Huntsman, began living at Elmwood, a long-term care facility, on Aug. 26, 2008. During his time at the facility, Elmer Huntsman had to sleep with a continuous positive airway pressure system device, which forced air into his lungs and aided in his breathing at night, according to the complaint.

However, during the early morning hours of Oct. 5, 2008, Elmer Huntsman suffered distress, severe oxygen desaturation and shortness of breath, the suit states. Such conditions should have been prevented by the CPAP machine, but were not.

When he began experiencing the symptoms, Elmer Huntsman requested Elmwood staff help him, but they refused to do so until the next morning when day staff placed a call for non-urgent transfer of Elmer Huntsman to the hospital, the complaint says.

By the time Elmer Huntsman arrived at the hospital at 9:15 a.m., he showed lividity and fixed and dilated pupils, Michael Huntsman claims.

"The death was reported to the Madison County Coroner and the Elder Abuse Hotline, and Elmwood was cited for improper nursing in relation to Elmer Huntsman's death," the suit states.

Not only did Elmer Huntsman die while living at Elmwood, but he also suffered a urinary tract infection and experienced unplanned weight loss, according to the complaint. He also suffered from stage 2,3 and 4 pressure ulcers on his coccyx and buttocks, the complaint says.

Michael Huntsman blames Elmwood and its owners for a number of negligent acts, including their failure to properly assess Elmer Huntsman's condition, their failure to adequately supervise Elmer Huntsman and their failure to recognize and treat Elmer Huntsman's condition.

"The aforementioned conduct of Elmwood demonstrated reckless indifference to or a complete disregard for the safety of the decedent, as Defendant knew or reasonably should have known, in the exercise of ordinary care, that its conduct created a high probability of injury," the suit states.

Michael Huntsman also names the CPAP maker, Fox Med-Equip, as a defendant, saying it failed to have adequate procedures in place to ensure that equipment it supplied performed satisfactorily, failed to provide appropriate monitoring of its equipment to ensure it was used in accordance with doctor's orders and failed to provide adequate documentation of the set up of the equipment and training provided to Elmwood staff on the use of the equipment.

Following his father's death, Michael Huntsman claims he has suffered grief, sorrow and mental suffering; lost his father's companionship and consortium; and incurred burial and other death-related expenses.

In his 18-count suit, Michael Huntsman seeks more than $350,000 in compensatory damages for his father's prior pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairment, loss of capacity to enjoy life, loss of a chance of survival and loss of enjoyment of the remainder of his life. Michael Huntsman also seeks a judgment of more than $800,000, plus attorneys' fees, punitive damages and other relief the court deems just.

Craig J. Jensen and Elizabeth A. Parker of LakinChapman in Wood River will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-837.

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